The Guy Side: Life is difficult enough; coffee shouldn't be - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

The Guy Side: Life is difficult enough; coffee shouldn't be

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Posted: Saturday, July 12, 2008 6:35 pm | Updated: 9:29 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

There was a tiny mom-and-pop diner back where I grew up. "Holler If You Want More Coffee" was printed on a sign near the register. No one ever noticed the sign. But the custom was understood among regulars: If you wanted a refill, you'd holler. Like a banshee.

First visits were always strange. You'd be eating your hash browns, dishes clattering and newspapers rustling around you, when someone would scream like they took some shrapnel.

"AAAGH!" No one would help them. Only one person (you) would even turn around. But, at some point, a waitress would refill their cup. Then the clatters and rustling would return, until the next "AAAGH!" You'd always return (usually with a clueless first-timer) to watch the beautiful, wordless language of coffee.

I think about that now at Starbucks, whenever someone placing an order long enough to sound like an Italian square dance. Starbucks is retooling, now, reflecting on ways to reclaim its position as the OPEC of coffee.

My suggestion is: simplify. Bring us back to the days of "AAAGH!"

Coffee was once a unifying beverage. Say the word at any diner, restaurant or lunch counter and you'd get a cup of something, black and hot, that gave you the strength to talk sassy as the day slapped you around. Coffee was always ... just coffee. Civil War soldiers sucked it through their elaborately tangled facial hair; cowboys slurped it fireside, to cover the soundtrack of their all-bean diets. Remember Life's photo of the Depression-era country doctor? He's holding a smoke and a cup of simple coffee. I guarantee you he isn't thinking: "I ordered a splash of amaretto."

Why did coffee have to get so complicated? I think Starbucks frightened a lot of the male demographic with their Italian portion names and nuanced menus that look like the arrivals board at Sky Harbor. Guys don't do nuance. We ask: "Will you cut my hair?" Not "Will you give me clipper trim and spike the top so no one notices my ears?" We ask: "Will you marry me?" not "Will you marry me at the cathedral, with a Caribbean-themed finger food reception to follow?"

Coffee should not be nuanced. Guys want a world where nuance stops at cream and sugar. That's why you'll find a lot of them at convenience store self-serves, digging through the flavored creamer packets for a honest-to-God container of half and half.

I actually like Starbucks (my doctor sends me there because my body can't organically produce ambition) and I applaud their ability to get so many Americans to pimp out their morning beverage like a kind of liquid funny car. But I think they should build a kind of no-frills express lane, for those of us who don't know venti from venison. A place where we can grab a cup and just say, "AAAAGH!"

Coffee should not be complicated. Life is complicated.

That's why we need coffee.

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